SIX WAYS TO FOSTER EMPLOYEE WELL-BEING AMIDST PANDEMIC BLUES
Blog: NASSCOM Official Blog
2020 has been quite a transition for employees across the world. The sudden need for adopting remote work at a global scale seemed daunting at first. However, with many months into the transition, the novelty enveloping the change has deteriorated. Corporate juggernauts have successfully established several necessary practices to avoid catastrophic setbacks. What seemed like an impossible change earlier has become the fabric of a typical workday.
There is one thing that this experience has invariably taught companies all over. A happy and engaged workforce is the lifeblood of all corporate organisations. When employees crash and burn, organisations crash and burn with them. So, companies must take an inventory of the problems threatening employee well-being. However, that warrants answering an important question.
Why is Employee Well-Being Under Threat?
The world is no longer struggling to go remote. The transition has already happened. The most apparent consequence here is the conjunction of one’s workplace and one’s home. This dissolution of boundaries between the two poses severe mental health risks for employees.
For instance, employees who enjoyed the social aspect of working in an office building are experiencing a sense of loneliness with remote work. Furthermore, inhabiting a world that seems to be at a standstill poses many existential questions. Not having the option to step outside your house every now and then (even for work) only exacerbates the negative impact that such rabbit-holes have.
One would hope that acclimating to new collaboration frameworks would counter the issues detailed above. However, that has not been the case. Even though teams have learnt how to detach from their old ways, sustaining remote work continues to be a challenge. Now that the novelty surrounding video-conferencing apps and robust communications tools has faded out, fatigue has set in. Employees have started viewing working-from-home as a hiatus that has overstayed its welcome.
Are Perks Even Exciting Anymore?
We’re no longer working in buildings with state-of-the-art infrastructure, extravagant food courts, or fancy espresso machines. On the contrary, most of us are huddled in our blankets; covering our torsos with office shirts and our bottom halves with pyjamas. Meetings do not take place in larger-than-life conference rooms. They happen over video calls. Understandably, remodelling the office canteen will not excite employees anymore.
But, does that mean that office perks no longer exert any influence over employee retention? Well, yes and no. At least until offices reopen, improvements made to closed office buildings will remain pointless. However, companies can still foster loyalty by giving employees what they need the most. We are talking about resources to keep employee well-being in check. These resources can be anything from an annual tech allowance and sponsored online-learning programs to vacation stipends and unpaid time-off.
However, why stop there? Here are six additional measures that companies can (and should) take:
Address the Sisyphus Syndrome
Much like Sisyphus, a man tasked with carrying a boulder up a hill for perpetuity, some employees spend the entirety of their work days chasing tasks that add little to the big-picture advancement of the organisation. Thus, they end up pouring blood, sweat, and tears into their work while deriving no joy or sense-of-accomplishment out of their efforts. To give the phenomenon a fancy moniker, such employees are trapped in the clutches of the Sisyphus Syndrome; a term reserved for communicating the mindset of typical Type-A personalities who fail to feel gratified upon achieving their goals.
Team leaders need to identify employees trapped in such loops and help them out. They need to improve task lists that are too transactional whilst sharpening company objectives that are too broad or visionary. All in all, the only way to tackle Sisyphus Syndrome in employees is to help them rediscover a sense of purpose in the work they do. To achieve the same, managers need to check-in with team members even outside of scheduled meetings. Doing so will also help fill the void left by the absence of casual water-cooler talk characteristic of pre-covid days.
Foster Open-Ended Discussions
Managing a remote workforce is not easy by any means. However, team leaders need to bite the bullet and avoid tyrannical dialogues at all costs. They need to foster open-ended discussions and discover the pain points of their team members. Doing so will also help in the identification of employees who are at the brink of burnout. This information will aid managers in establishing appropriate, timely interventions.
Side note: It’s also important for managers to nail the pace of open-ended discussions. Managers need to ensure that they don’t zone in too much on job performance when addressing team members. After all, holistic communication breeds transparency and interrogative discourses foster frustrated yes-men.
When managers interact with employees, they’ll likely identify that environmental constraints are different for everyone. For someone living alone, working a 9-to-5 will not be a problem. However, employees with old parents, kids, or pets will not be able to churn out extended hours of focused output. Forcing a rigid timeline on them will only hamper company productivity at-large. However, giving them the autonomy to work flexibly will do wonders for their productivity and well-being.
Make Day-Offs Mandatory
When a physical separation between work and life doesn’t exist, many employees are prone to burning the midnight oil even when it is not needed. Thus, necessitating day-offs will ensure that the entire workforce takes breaks from time-to-time.
Organise Weekly/Fortnightly Fun Activities
Everyone wants to work in an organisation that knows when to dial-down on milestones and have fun. In a typical world, fun-loving organisations engage employees in regular leisurely activities. Doing so not only helps employees cool off but also catalyses team-building. In a work-from-home world, companies can organise such events virtually. Think along the lines of comedy shows, fitness sessions, talent hunts, family introductions, and more. A gesture as simple as sending employees gifts on their birthdays also goes a long way in safeguarding morale.
Build an Emergency Response Team
Implementing ideas to foster employee well-being is commendable. However, no one can precisely predict why or when an employee may face a mental-health crisis. In light of this sentiment, organisations must also establish emergency response teams. When employees know that help is just around the virtual corner, they’re more comfortable communicating their woes. Simply put, having an emergency response team signals that the company views employees as human beings instead of cogs in a machine.
The typical workspace may make a comeback soon. Until then, companies must empathetically address current issues and protect workforce well-being in ways that matter. After all, accountability is a two-way street and employees have already done their part.